Topic: Research

Just Say No

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Imposing self-control weakens one’s mental energy, making one’s next temptation seem more desirable and irresistible, according to a study discussed by ScienceNews’ Bruce Bower on February 25, 2012:

In this study, subjects who’d already resisted one or more urges saw their rate of yielding to new temptations increase from 15 percent early in the day to 37 percent later in the day. Fatigue, in and of itself, did not seem to explain this reduction of willpower.

The most successful people at resisting sugary treats, partying with friends before completing their work, and/or sundry other enticements were observed to avoid such temptations altogether. Therefore, they rarely had to rely completely on self-discipline.

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The Joy of Giving

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

It is more blessed — and may also be healthier — to give than to receive, according to research described by Science News (February 25, 2012):

By surveying more than 200,000 volunteers in 136 countries, researchers learned that spending money on others brings more happiness than spending it on oneself. Subsequent testing of over 900 subjects in Canada, India and Uganda produced similar findings. Along the same lines, stress hormone levels remained stable in college students who shared a monetary windfall with others, whereas stress hormone levels rose in those who kept all of the financial gain for themselves — as did feelings of shame.

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Exercise and Stroke Recovery

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Old good news:Regular exercise can help lower one’s risk for stroke. New good news: Physically fit people who do have a stroke have a better chance of recovery. Spanish researchers have found that patients who were more physically active prior to a stroke responded much better to clot-busting medication, sustained less brain damage, and were more likely to regain their motor skills, compared to more sedentary stroke patients.This preliminary study, presented at a recent American Stroke Association meeting, was described by HealthDay, an affiliate of the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

Researchers looked at 159 stroke patients (average age 68), who completed standard questionnaires relating their physical activity level before the stroke. They were divided into three physical activity levels: low, medium and high.

Patients in the highest activity level were more likely to have their blood flow restored within two hours of being given tPA, a drug for dissolving blood clots and reopening arteries. Sixty-two percent of the high-activity patients showed an early response to tPA, compared to 35 percent of the medium-activity patients and none of the low-activity patients.

Eighty-nine percent of the high-activity patients recovered their motor skills, compared to 69 percent of the medium-activity patients and only four percent of the low-activity patients.

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Good for the Heart

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Two particularly interesting reports given at a recent American Heart Association meeting were subsequently summarized by Nathan Seppa writing for Science News magazine:

  • Having one’s teeth cleaned by a dentist or dental hygienist may reduce one’s risk for heart attack. Researchers in Taiwan followed the health of more than 100,000 subjects. Over a seven year follow-up period, the rate of heart attack in those who had undergone dental cleaning to remove plaque from their teeth was a fourth lower than in those who did not. Although poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease has long been linked to heart disease, few studies have investigated the subject specifically in terms of preventing cardiac events.
  • Researchers in Israel studied 50 subjects who had experienced heart attack or unstable angina. All were immediately placed on standard medications, but half were also given 4,000 international units of vitamin D daily. Five days later, the vitamin D group had lower levels of two inflammation-causing compounds that are associated with heart disease: vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (which is involved in the formation of atherosclerotic plaque) and interleukin-6 (which is generally tied to increased coronary risk). Both of the compounds increased in patients who had not received vitamin D.
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    Social Overeating

    Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Two new studies explore the tendency to overeat in social situations. Researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, paired women who had not previously met and monitored them as they shared a meal together. The scientists were studying behavioral mimicry, in which a person unwittingly imitates the behavior of another. In this study, the women did mimic each other’s eating behavior virtually bite for bite, including taking bites at the same time. Both members of a pair were influenced by the other member, and the mimicry was stronger at the beginning of the meal, diminishing towards the end of the meal. Since the women were new acquaintances, researchers think they may have unintentionally observed each other’s eating behavior in order to establish a matching pattern, unconsciously seeking to facilitate the social connection. That could shed light on why the mimicry subsided as they got to know each other during the course of the meal.

    Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, found that "people pleasers" (persons who are sensitive to criticism, who put other people’s needs ahead of their own, and who worry about hurting other people’s feelings) tend to overeat in certain social situations. Each study volunteer was seated alone with an actor posing as just another study volunteer. The actor took a few pieces of candy from a bowl, then offered the candy bowl to the study volunteer. Being a people pleaser was associated with eating more candy. Lead author, psychologist Julie Exline, said, "People pleasers feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable."

    Both of these studies serve as useful reminders to eat mindfully in social settings.

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    Progress for Parkinson’s Patients

    Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    For promising news regarding the ongoing battle against Parkinson’s disease, read the following press release from the University of Florida Health Science Center:

    Researchers from the University of Florida and 14 additional medical centers reported results recently in the online version of The Lancet Neurology journal indicating that deep brain stimulation — also known as DBS — is effective at improving motor symptoms and quality of life in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease.

    The study, sponsored by St. Jude Medical Inc., tested the safety and effectiveness of a constant current DBS device developed by St. Jude Medical to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The device aimed to reduce tremors, improve the slowness of movement, decrease the motor disability of the disease and reduce involuntary movements called dyskinesia, which are a common side effect of Parkinson’s drugs.

    After treatment, analysis of 136 patient diaries revealed longer periods of effective symptom control — known as “on time” — without involuntary movements. “On time” for patients who received stimulation increased by an average of 4.27 hours compared with an increase of 1.77 hours in the group without stimulation. Patients also noted overall improvements in the quality of their daily activities, mobility, emotional state, social support and physical comfort.

    “I think it is safe to say since dopamine treatment emerged in the 1960s, DBS has been the single biggest symptomatic breakthrough for Parkinson patients who have experienced the fluctuations associated with levodopa therapy,” said Michael S. Okun, M.D., first author of the study, administrative director of the UF College of Medicine’s Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, and the National Medical Director for the National Parkinson Foundation. “This study validates the use of mild electrical currents delivered to specific brain structures in order to improve Parkinson’s disease in select patients with advanced symptoms, and additionally, it explored a new stimulation paradigm. Future improvements in devices and the delivery systems for DBS will hopefully provide exciting new opportunities for Parkinson’s sufferers.”

    Only patients who have had Parkinson’s disease for five years or more were included in the study.They were randomly assigned to a control group that delayed the onset of stimulation for three months, or a group whose stimulation began shortly after surgery. All patients were followed for 12 months.

    The deep brain stimulation procedure involves surgeons implanting small electrodes into an area of the patient’s brain that controls movement. The electrodes are connected to a device precisely programmed to use mild electrical current to modulate problematic brain signals that result in movement problems.

    Today’s voltage-controlled DBS devices deliver pulses of current that vary slightly with surrounding tissue changes. The DBS devices tested in this study are intended to provide more accurate delivery and control of the electrical pulses.

    “We are committed to driving research that will provide solutions for physicians and their patients whose needs are currently unmet,” said Rohan Hoare, president of St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division. “These results are significant as they offer evidence that stimulation with the Libra constant current system enabled patients to have better motor control and an improvement in their quality of life when compared to the control group.”

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of DBS for Parkinson’s disease in 2002. At least 500,000 people in the United States suffer from Parkinson’s with about 50,000 new cases reported annually, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. These numbers are expected to increase as the average age of the population rises.

    “The study answered some very important questions concerning cognition and mood with lead implantation (alone) versus implantation with stimulation. It also refutes the hypothesis that DBS increases depressive symptoms,” said Gordon H. Baltuch, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurosurgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a study author. “The group’s results also showed a decrease in the infection rate to 4 percent from previously published 10 percent. It shows that American neurosurgeons and neurologists with their industry partners are improving the safety of this procedure and working in a collaborative fashion.”

    Comparable with other large DBS studies, the most common serious adverse event revealed was infection, which occurred in five patients. Likewise, some participants also reported an increase in the occurrence of slurred speech, known as dysarthria.

    “Technology is on the move, and we expect to see continued improvements to DBS approaches, equipment and materials,” said Okun, who is also affiliated with UF’s McKnight Brain Institute. “DBS has set the bar high for the development of new therapies for advanced Parkinson’s disease patients. DBS will be the standard of care gene therapy and other cell-based therapies that are now being conceived will be measured against, and this will hopefully translate into significant improvements in what we can offer our patients.”

    In addition to UF and Penn, research was conducted at centers affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, Lahey Clinic, Loma Linda University Medical Center, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Oakwood Hospital and Health Systems, Texas Health Presbyterian, Rush University Medical Center, the University of Miami, the University of Rochester and the University of Virginia Health Systems.

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    More on Obesity

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Despite the very best of intentions, a New Year’s resolution to lose body fat may be more difficult for some people to fulfill than for others. New brain scan research indicates that in obese persons, neural activity in the brain may encourage over-eating. Writing in a recent issue of Science News, Janet Raloff explained the problem:

    After a hungry person eats a meal, blood sugar glucose levels return to normal. In people of normal weight, this causes the shut-down of a neural system that promotes positive feelings toward food. It is the brain’s way of acknowledging satiation and signaling that the need for calories has been met. At that point, normal-weight persons stop eating.

    But in obese persons, the system may not turn off following a meal. No matter how much they have just eaten, it still lights up at the sight of rich, high-calorie fare. This can occur even though blood sugar glucose levels have returned to normal. It may contribute to the persistence of obesity in some individuals who have tried and failed repeatedly to lose body fat.

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    New Hope for Humans and Horses

    Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Like other senior fitness professionals, Janie Clark, president of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), has served many clients with osteoarthritis. In addition, Janie’s all-time favorite mare, the late great “Squall Moon,” suffered from the condition during her senior years. So here at SFA we are especially pleased to share the following University of Florida Health Science Center news release describing new progress in the fight against osteoarthritis:

    University of Florida researchers are developing a gene therapy technique that could help both humans and horses fight osteoarthritis, a debilitating condition that causes inflammation and deterioration of the joints. The goal is to create a one-time treatment that works long term.

    The research team received a highly competitive one-year, $900,000 grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease to fund the work. The new effort will expand laboratory studies into trials that better approximate osteoarthritis in humans.

    The work will involve the use of viruses, called adeno-associated viruses, or AAV, as vehicles to deliver genetic material to the joints of horses, where it would produce a therapeutic protein directly at the site of the disease.

    “We’re uniquely poised to do this study, because UF has a leading program in equine medicine and research and is one of the homes of AAV technology,” said principal investigator Steven Ghivizzani, Ph.D., a professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation in the UF College of Medicine, and a member of the UF Genetics Institute. Researchers at UF’s Powell Gene Therapy Center are among the pioneers of AAV technology and gene therapy applications for a number of diseases./p>

    Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is a chronic condition that affects large weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joints that usually allows bones to move smoothly over each other wears away, causing bones to rub. The result is pain, stiffness and swelling. About 27 million Americans age 25 and older have the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. The economic cost of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions is estimated at close to $130 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    There is no cure for osteoarthritis.

    Joint replacement surgery can help ease the disabling effects of the condition. The few medicines that exist for osteoarthritis mostly offer only limited symptom relief. In addition, those drugs can have unwanted consequences. Corticosteroid injections, for example, which are given to both people and horses, also suppress other healthy activities in the joint, such as processes important for healing. The injections also have to be administered repeatedly, which increases the chance of infection.

    In contrast, the new gene therapies being developed at UF would require a one-time treatment and would not hinder the body’s healing processes.

    Research suggests that the pain, joint inflammation and loss of cartilage associated with osteoarthritis are linked to a protein called interleukin-1. A therapeutic gene used to treat the arthritic joints produces a second protein that naturally counteracts the effects of interleukin-1, but that has not yet translated into effective treatments for patients because of difficulty getting high enough concentrations inside affected joints.

    The UF researchers are devising a gene therapy approach that would allow continued production of therapeutic protein within the joints, directly at the disease site. Unlike existing drugs, the potential one-time treatment would not just address symptoms, but change the course of the disease.

    “Dr. Ghivizzani is at the forefront of trying to develop new technologies for treating osteoarthritis and other joint diseases by gene therapy,” said Christopher Evans, D.Sc., Ph.D., theMaurice Müller professor of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, who is not involved in the UF study. “There’s a lot riding on this.”

    Previous studies in small animals such as rats demonstrated that delivery of the gene therapy resulted in meaningful levels of gene expression within affected joints. The researchers will examine how that translates to the larger joints of horses, which are more similar to human joints in terms of size, tissue structure and weight-bearing stance.

    The new studies will determine the therapy dose that can be given safely, how much of the therapeutic protein is produced in the joint — and for how long — and the effectiveness of the therapy.

    The researchers will use techniques such as a minimally invasive procedure called arthroscopy, imaging studies such as MRI and X-ray, as well as hands-on clinical evaluations to check for inflammation and cartilage degradation. Motion capture analysis will help with evaluation of changes in gait, a good measure of pain.

    “We hope that this will be at least the first step in a therapy that will benefit both people and animals,” said Patrick Colahan, D.V.M., a board-certified equine surgeon in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine and co-investigator on the study. “It has the potential to help lots of different species, and from a veterinarian’s perspective, that’s what we’d like.”

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    Depression and Stroke

    Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Chinese researchers have analyzed the results of 17 studies (involving more than 200,000 subjects) that investigated the relationship between depression and stroke. They found that persons who had experienced depression at some time in their lives were approximately one-third more likely to have a stroke compared to persons who had not been depressed, according to a Reuters Health Information report.

    Each of the 17 studies started out with subjects who hadn’t had a stroke, and then tracked them over time. Most of the studies showed a clear link between depression and increased stroke risk. Overall, the risk for stroke was 34 percent higher in persons with depression.

    Even though the connection between depression and stroke was seen to be strong, it is not yet known whether depression actually causes an increase in stroke risk. That is an issue that will be addressed by further research. It may be that depression hampers an individual’s ability to follow healthful behaviors. Depression has also been linked to the development of both hypertension and diabetes. Future studies will tackle the question: Can successfully treating the symptoms of depression lead to a lower risk for stroke?

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    Inactivity and Diverticular Disease

    Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    In diverticular disease, bulging pouches develop in the lining of the large intestine. The condition is fairly prevalent in older adults and is often treated by increasing a patient’s consumption of dietary fiber. Now Swedish researchers, reporting in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, have found that obese, physically inactive subjects are at a higher risk for hospitalization due to diverticular disease.

    Like many scientific studies, the Swedish analysis of health-survey data (which was collected over the course of 10-plus years from 40,000 female participants) does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. In this case, that means that a cause-and-effect association has not been established between being heavy or sedentary and developing diverticular disease. However, the paper’s lead author suggests that exercising and losing weight may help to prevent the symptoms.

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